By BRIAN DUNN
For many students, the winter break was relaxing and enjoyable. The UNH men’s hockey team, on the other hand, had a stretch that was rather forgetful.
During a five-week span, the Wildcats played ten games and only recorded 3 wins. Two wins came at the hands of the Maine Black Bears and the most recent one was a 3-1 decision against No. 4 Providence College on Saturday night. The ‘Cats hold a 9-14-4 overall record and stand tied for 10th in the conference standings, with only eight games left to play.
The break started off strong as the team took care of business against the Black Bears. The teams met at neutral sites in Portland, Maine and Manchester, New Hampshire, and the Wildcats iced the season series with two wins. The first game ended in a 5-4 final, and 7-0 decision on the second night. The Maine games were the final games of the 2015 calendar year.
The New Year hasn’t been so kind to the Wildcats. On Jan. 2, UNH traveled to the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, where the team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Vermont Catamounts. Despite efforts by Matias Cleland and Andrew Poturalski to overcome a two-goal deficit, the team ultimately lost in overtime and dropped the first game of 2016.
It’s been a slippery slope for UNH ever since. The ‘Cats could not nab a win in their next five contests, losing to UMass-Lowell, twice to Northeastern, and twice to the University of Notre Dame. The team held a season-high six-game losing streak.
After a long drought, the Wildcats sought to right the ship against an old foe; No. 4 ranked Providence College, the defending NCAA champions.
The first game took place Friday night, and UNH’s struggles continued. Though they battled, the Wildcats dropped their seventh straight game to the Friars by a 3-1 decision.
“[Providence College] is a tough team, they compete hard” said head coach Dick Umile. “We did not do a great job covering them, but they move the puck.”
Although the team failed to break the losing streak, junior forward Tyler Kelleher snapped his 13-game scoring drought with a goal against Providence.
“Finally.” said Umile when asked about the goal, but he still wants more from his star performers, like Kelleher. “Some of the guys we are counting on need to do more for us.”
The following night, UNH grabbed its first win of 2016. Senior forward Kyle Smith recorded two goals in the winning effort and the ‘Cats were able to walk away with a series split, defeating Providence on the road by a score of 3-1.
Despite a difficult stretch, there have been bright spots for the team.
Sophomore Andrew Poturalski was nominated for the prestigious Hobey Baker award, given to the NCAA Division I hockey’s top performer. Poturalski is second in the nation with 19 goals, 22 assists and 41 points overall.
Senior goaltender Jamie Regan stepped between the pipes for his first-ever start as a Wildcat on Jan. 23 against Notre Dame. Regan was on the losing end but posted 26 saves and a .896 save percentage.
Kelleher is now only five points shy of entering the UNH century club. Kelleher has 95 career points and is closing in on putting his name in history with some of UNH’s greatest skaters.
UNH hopes to turn the season around and start a winning streak next week when they step inside the Conte Forum to do battle with the Boston College Eagles.
Smith’s two-goal effort ends Wildcats’ skid
By BRIAN DUNN